Friday, April 2, 2010

And Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Brego

Oh, what fun! Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so ends the 2010 April Fool's day joke. Good memories.

For those of you who were excited to purchase a book about Brego, I salute you and your complete vote of confidence, not only in my writing abilities, but in Brego's ability to win Rolex AND inspire the single greatest actor of our time (after Harrison Ford, pre 1998 of course).

All in good fun, of course, and remember, I do this every year. You have been warned.

Anyway, in real life, Brego and I are gearing up nicely for a pretty low key, but hopefully successful season. We've been meeting our 4 rides a week goal and Brego's fitness continues to impress me. I always though taking four months off over the winter would wreck a horse, but he bounces back every spring better and better. He is still a bit shaggy, so until I get to body clip him and tame that wicked mohawk, he will remain under wraps. He needs to be presentable for his public, after all.

The big ado is that there is a schooling dressage show at the end of April. Which in itself is not a big deal, since we are very realistic about our dressage potential, but this is a special show because it's being hosted by my fox hunt. So a lot of my good friends from the hunt will be there. And as they watch us go around, amid the jeers and jokes, they just might remember that it was Brego that bounced them off the trail or took that wall in such glorious form, so I want him to do well. You know, to show my hunt. Why? Because.

Anyway, after the dressage show, we will have a break while we school fences and get ready for the Groton House summer classic and a two-phase derby. I am looking forward to jumping again, but I am most looking forward to cross country. We've gotten so much rain recently, we've been hacking on roads and the fairgrounds and I can't wait to get out and just ride.

Other highlights include our first solo conditioning set of the season and Brego did very well by himself. He's a brave boy.

So far, he's been foot perfect barefoot. We've managed to master his over-winter protocol to keep his feet concave and hard. If you recall, this time last year, Brego was foot sore over rocks. Last week, I did my trot and canter sets on a gravel road because it was the driest place to ride. Not a smooth gravel road, a road with rocks. Brego never took an off step. The secret to our success this year was frequent stalling at night to give his feet a chance to dry out and, no foolin', a heat gun. A heat gun, as opposed to a hair drier, is quick and relatively quiet. You can see his feet drying out as you watch and you get a real thorough dry. Drying his feet kept them from "splating" even in very wet conditions. I am a convert to the heat gun, it has really made a difference this year.

Once I get the big man presentable, we will be back to posting pictures. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Brego On a Bookshelf Near You

The past year has been crazy. Not only with the farm work, but also super secret plotting, nay, planning for an ultra-special Brego extravaganza. Today, I am pleased to announce that I have signed a deal to publish a book about Brego entitled: Brego Versus World: From Chub To Triumph.

Part inspirational story, part "How To", and part Sci-fi fantasy, Brego Versus World is just pure fun. I've been working very hard on the rewrites, and tightening up the plot, and of course, the endless photo shoots. My editor, without whom none of this would be possible, is just starting to come up for air. And so far the advance reviews for the back cover are looking pretty good.

Brego is the horse I've always secretly wanted. Ever since I bought him from Daun for a six-pack of beer, I've been watching his career as an absentee owner. Now that people realize his potential, I look forward to taking him to the next level. Just as soon as I get him back from Daun. -- Max Corcoran, head groom for Team O'Conner.

Brego Versus World just gets better and better. Every page has a new, delightful twist on this hard-luck guy beating the odds to win [Kentucky] Rolex [Three Day Event]. Who knew a draft horse could be so compelling? Plus, the recipes are healthy and delicious! -- Funder, of Blog-o-sphere Fame

Brego has been an inspiration for me, not only in my acting career, but in my life. When I faced down 10,000 orcs at Helms Deep, I asked: "What would Brego do? How would Brego manage to triumph over grave evil?" This book had all the answers I needed to keep living the Brego dream every day of my splendid life. -- Viggo Mortensen, actor

I am so excited to be able to break this news on my blog, since it is my faithful readers over the years which have kept me writing and exploring just how amazing Brego can be. We are currently working out the logistics of the book signing tour and the commemorative t-shirts, but once those details are finalized, I will of course let everyone know.

So congrats to Brego! And, of course, to me! And I hope everyone runs out and reserves their advance copy of the greatest book in our modern age (no, it will not be on Kindle, so stop asking).


Friday, March 19, 2010

Gradually, then Suddenly

Spring appears to have arrived in her typical fashion, gradually then suddenly. The garlic and other bulbs are up and we're getting sunny, 60 F degree days. Not much to complain about, really.

And so a curious thing happened. I rode Brego two days in a row: a rare feat not seen since last November. And somehow in that time, our rides turned from casual hacks to Working With A Purpose.

We rode our first conditioning ride of the season yesterday. As I always do, I assume we start with zero. Brego looks, to my eye, better off than he was this time last season. His feet are much better, more concave and harder, and he's not named Tubby McFatNeck. All good things. So even though I start from zero, my zero is still a work out. We did two 8 minute trot sets and one 1 minute canter set. He recovered in under 3 minutes of walking, so I know I hit the sweet spot. Not too much work, but he did break a sweat.

The big goal of this season is conditioning. Last year, he was almost perfect (after treating for Lyme) that the only thing I could ding him for was his conditioning, and that is 100% my fault. So this year, I am mixing things up a bit. I am going for longer duration trot sets first. Last year, I increased quantity, not duration of trot sets, maxing out at a measly five minutes. My final conditioning set of last season was three 5 minute trots and three 4 minute canters (at Novice Speed). This year I want to finish at three 15 minute trots and three 5 minute canters. That ought to do 'er.

I am also reevaluating feed. Brego has always been on a high fat, low starch diet to minimize the risk of EPSM. However, a friend passed along an article about feed and performance written by a man who trains Thoroughbred race horses. Brego is not a thoroughbred, by any stretch of the imagination, but he doesn't exactly fit the draft profile either. He's not 2500 lbs, he is not massively muscular and his workload doesn't involve slow, continuous work for 8 hours (which is ideal for the slow burning fats). In every respect -- lifestyle, work level, even body size -- he is a warmblood-ish sport horse. He is only Percheron in breeding, in other words, and so this year I am going to experiment with feeding him less like a draft and more like a sport horse. That is not to say I am going to throw some sugary sweet feed at him, but I am going to up his carbs (for fast burn, high intensity work) and see what he does.

My most common complaint last season is he "ran out of gas" at the 4 minute mark on course or in hunts or in conditioning sets. And that is very typical of a horse running out of fast burning fuel. He would recover fine and then we could go again, once his body had pulled in some fat. So I want to make sure he has the fast burning fuel he needs. I might even play with glucose loading before a big show, if I feel like he is doing well. I had him tested for EPSM last fall when we were diagnosing the Lyme problem, so I know he is negative. I will give him a year of eating more like a normal sport horse and then I will test him again in the fall and see how his body is handling the change in diet.

I am not planning on a lot of shows this year, due mostly to the farm and work monopolizing my time. But I am shooting for riding a minimum of 4 days a week. We have the first show of the season, a schooling dressage show, at the end of April. I intend to ride the Groton House classics and I hope to meet up with Andrea at UNH in October for our big recognized show. I've schooled there and it's a tough course, in my opinion. Then a fall of foxhunting and a winter of skijoring. We actually didn't get enough snow this year for skijoring, I was only able to work with him twice the entire winter. Oh well. There's one truth in New Hampshire and that is winter will come again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cross-post: Wind Storm 2010

I haven't been doing much riding, but I have been doing MUCH living! Some of you may have heard that New England was hit by a fairly big storm last week. At the peak, 1 million people were without power.

The animals rode out the storm just fine, but my nerves were a little frayed by the end of it. Brego was very brave and sane and for that I am always thankful. Things could have been much worse.

I wrote up my experience on the farm blog. If you want to hear about the closest I have ever come to a full out panic, check it out.

I hope everyone else is safe, warm, and doing well. I should be back in training by the end of the month, once the snow goes away!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

He Lives!

Where has the winter gone? I am quite ashamed to say that I have ridden Brego a total of three times since the new year. But each time, he is relaxed and fun and as smart as ever. The boy remembers everything, and unlike last year, I am not worried that we will be behind once Spring truly arrives. We will do just fine, with maybe some special care taken to conditioning.

A terrible photo, but not a bad ride, considering...

I've been battling a virus myself, so getting back in the saddle today was a good test of my own abilities. We went across the street to the indoor for the first time this season and did some walk/trot/canter. Nothing too crazy. We finished with some nice simple changes. Brego is definitely not as strong as he was at the end of last season, lurching a bit into the canter, carrying himself a little low, but his brain was sharp and his overall fitness was good. No heavy breathing, no sweating, soft jaw, plenty of go. He really is so much better since his Lyme treatment, both mentally and physically.

Only a couple more months until we begin our training for real. Hopefully, we will get some snow to cover the frozen ground and we can continue our fun rides. He's been doing well with skijoring practice, but no photo evidence exists, unfortunately.

Until then, we'll just muddle through and every ride this winter will be a gift.